Zonta Club of Adelaide Torrens History
On 14th August 1981 the Zonta Club of Adelaide Torrens was chartered under the watchful eye of “Mother Zonta”, Dr Heidi Taylor. The instigator of several Zonta clubs in Adelaide, Torrens was yet another of her achievements. With 39 members and Suzanne Langlois as Charter President the club was launched with fanfare at the Oberoi Hotel on 22nd October 1981. As of mid-2014 one charter member, Jan Seeger, who has served in nearly every position over the years, remains an active and valued member of the club.
Adelaide Torrens set off on an ambitious programme of service, fund raising and meetings. Members initiated the long running Woman of Achievement Awards, focussed on safety for the aged, involved the club in broad discussions on women’s equality and non-traditional girl’s careers and sponsored women with disabilities.
By 1990 with Barbara Worley as President, a dedicated Zontian who went on to become Area Director a few years later, the club had 40 members and 8 committees. The club created perhaps its best known project, namely Continence Stickers. These ‘stickers’ were small advertisements designed to assist women by instructing them on how to avoid incontinence. Produced in their hundreds and stuck on the backs of toilet doors they can still be found today throughout South Australia with details on how to do pelvic floor exercises. Later these stickers were translated into Greek, Italian, and Vietnamese to serve our increasingly diverse community.
Another major community contribution in this era was the initial funding to support carers from which the Carer’s Association emerged, an organisation providing a myriad of services to the mainly women carers who deliver on-going support across the community. The club’s varied programme in these years also included mentoring women in business, volunteering and assisting rural women.
Despite all these achievements the membership was put under real strain when a large group left the club all at once in the early 90’s. Undaunted, new President Dianne Leslie reunited the membership and rebuilt with support from a raft of rising Zontians, including Jill Wheatley and Prue Cowled. Indeed, in February 1992 the club had one of its most successful fund raisers ever, a business lunch featuring member Karin Myhill’s friend Caroline Hewson, a merchant banker whose husband was a prime ministerial aspirant.
By the mid to late 1990’s Adelaide Torrens was a regular supporter of a local women’s refuge, Chisholm Place, and the ‘Koala Trail’, a newspaper recycling project well ahead of its time. Running since 1986 the Woman of Achievement Award was now the club’s signature yearly event. The Award was aligned with a United Nations theme and a winner announced at a high profile gala dinner. Splendid women had their contributions acknowledged. Often the club aimed to find women who were the unsung heroines and one amazing foster mother tearfully told us, “No-one has ever noticed”, referring to her own herculean efforts.
Another major project emerged at the end of the 1990’s. Member and education specialist Margaret Ford developed “Women Living Alone Safely” brochures which were printed and disseminated throughout the community, especially in retirement villages. Energy and enthusiasm from key members also enabled support for two new and on-going District Projects which emerged in the early 2000’s. The Breast Cushion Project, producing care cushions for women recovering from breast surgery has resulted in over 2000 beautiful cushions being sewn, wrapped and presented to local hospital patients. Many letters of thanks and donations have come back to the club as a result. The other initiative, the Zonta Birthing Kit Project, was embraced and assembling birthing kits has become a regular yearly activity. These simple kits are assembled in Australia and sent to women in developing countries to create a clean birthing environment, saving their lives and preventing infections. By 2014 Adelaide Torrens had raised the funds and assembled over 15,000 kits. Club member Jenny Weaver became Director and later Chair of the Birthing Kit Foundation (Australia), the not for profit company required to run this huge project which won the inaugural District Project Award at the 2014 Zonta International Convention.
A high point for any club is when it mentors and successfully launches another club. For Adelaide Torrens this took several years of hard work and a lot of travel, all orchestrated by the determined Barbara Worley, whose husband Donald did the driving to Clare, a town several hours north of Adelaide. Ably supported by Prue Cowled and Shirley Lamb their efforts were rewarded on June 22nd 2002 when the Zonta Club of Clare and Districts was chartered in an autumn-themed dinner at the Clare Golf Club. The two clubs have kept in close touch. Torrens has provided support at times of crisis, partnered with them for an Area Workshop and were just as proud when Nan Berrett from Clare was recently elected Area Director, confirmation for us that the new club has come of age.
Despite a hair-raising loss of members at the 2012 AGM Adelaide Torrens pulled through and rallied with energy and vitality. New members, including the indomitable Joan Moller who took on membership and is now President, were the tonic the club needed, with membership doubling over the last biennium. Today the club supports a vibrant programme including assistance for women leaving prison, a microcredit programme in DR Congo, helping young indigenous women, and a programme for Indian women who are victims of domestic violence.
Through all this the club has been a powerful source of support. Through good times and bad the club has nurtured and sustained its members with its sense of comradery and common purpose. By working together we have found a strength we never could have achieved on our own, met fabulous women who otherwise would never have crossed our path, been introduced to some of the most magnificent women on the planet and made friends across communities. This, and what we have achieved at a club level, has sustained us. The energising effect of our work together has been a wonderful and inspiring journey, long may it continue.